FROM LITTLE THINGS, BIG THINGS GROW
Think back to 1972. If you weren’t there, you’ve still got a good idea of the ‘vibe’, and if not, I think ‘individual expression’ sums it up pretty well.
Now picture a young Imma and Mario, thinking of their beloved Italy, an obsession for great food, and opening their first continental deli on St Bernards Road. This was a place of authenticity, a celebration of heritage and two people expressing something to their community that was so integral to their upbringings.
Above all it was a place for personalised service, smiles and quality produce. This ethos followed them to four more locations, each time growing a little, each time sharing more of Italy to more Australians who were enthusiastic about the culture and the quality that the Caporaso family brought to Adelaide.
Talking with current owner John (son of Imma and Mario), he remembers practically growing up in the store alongside sister Angela. I asked him if he had ever expected to one day head the business and be the one to take Mercato to its 50th year (and plan the next 50!)
"No, not at all. I was merely looking for my next investment. I decided to do so in commercial property and use this premises to house my business. Then one thing led to another… and another… Whilst having lots of fun with some really lovely people doing mutually enjoyable stuff, we have reached where we are today.”
Happy accidents and a joyous experience in an industry which can encounter huge peaks and troughs, John’s connection with people, food and wine was the right mix to set Mercato on its current course.
To give you an insight into the lessons taught and learnt in the Caporaso household from very early on: the positive relationship with quality food and appreciation of authenticity came from Imma and Mario reminding their children from a young age:
“Never compromise on the quality of food and wine, John, no matter how tough things get.”
They always ate and drank well, and the patrons of Mercato do too!
THE EVE OF THE NEW MILLENNIUM
John and his wife Rose joined with Imma and Mario in 1998, and took over the business in the following year. It had become a full-on family affair as it now spanned generations. In June 2005, “Imma and Mario’s Mercato” opened in Campbelltown and was later (in 2009) shortened to the snappier “Mercato”. The new store was vast and needed to be filled with more of Italy. More brands, products and categories were searched out and vetted for authenticity and quality, and Mercato has grown exponentially ever since. Community remained a key pillar and a modern feel had begun to take place.
OUR ITALY, OUR COMMUNITY, OUR OBSESSION.
The community has rallied around Mercato just as fervently as Mercato has shared Italy with the community. It’s been a wonderful symbiotic relationship which has resulted in many meals, drinks and gifts enjoyed with friends and family. This commitment to authentic Italian food and wine has brought us together for both grand celebratory feasts and humble family dinners. Discussing gratitude for the extended family of customers, suppliers and staff of Mercato with John, he had this to say:
“Naturally a special thanks to those who have evolved with us since Mum and Dad’s tenure and who have understood and supported our purpose of sharing Italy everyday.”
The special link between modern Australia and traditional Italian cuisine and customs has grown with the migrant community and, like the people, has enriched Australia as the two cultures embrace each other. Mercato’s food, wine, recipes and experiences are something shared openly and happily, with love and care.
50 YEARS STRONG AND STRIDING INTO THE FUTURE.
50 Years in business is a huge milestone, but it doesn’t slow down Mercato and it certainly doesn’t slow down John. When I asked him about his hopes for Mercato in 10 years’ time:
“A market! More stores! Go Global! And exploration into even more product groups.”
For this I was quick to suggest a trip to Italy. But I’m quick to suggest a trip to Italy in most situations. So, purely for research purposes, I asked John where he loved to visit in Italy the most:
“That’s a tough one. Who’s your favourite child? Every region is amazing, heartfelt and magical in its own right. It’s the same with food and wine in a culinary sense. I will say though, my home region of Campania is pretty special in the sense that I have fond childhood memories when I visited with Mum and Dad. The dialect they spoke and their general attitude in the homeland today mirrors that of my Australian|Campanese family that I grew up with all my life here in Adelaide.”
I guess in the future we can expect a little piece of something from every corner of Italy. Because it truly is all special. And John wants Mercato to grow big enough to capture every slice, every sip and every piece of that culinary wonder that has become so integral to our lives, even though we are so far away.
Italy, we love you.
Traveller of Places, Lover of Wine, Eater of Food, Teller of Stories